In their first road game this season, Maryland's players walked off the court at game's end with an all-too-familiar feeling. North Carolina State guard Justin Gainey used a screen and made a 12-foot jumper in the lane with 1.3 seconds left to send the No. 12 Terrapins to a 68-66 loss in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams before 19,525 at the Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Terence Morris's 40-foot bank shot at the final buzzer was a little too strong and bounced off the rim, leaving the Terrapins with their third loss of the season, all by five points or fewer. Morris, who had a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds, swung his arms in disgust; he and his teammates silently trudged toward their locker room with their heads down, feeling they should have won.
After the game, Maryland Coach Gary Williams sternly lectured his team on its habit of starting games poorly, then said he is tired of the Terrapins' youth being used as an excuse.
"We've got to grow up," said Williams, who starts freshman Steve Blake at point guard and uses three freshmen reserves. "We can't worry about the ages of some of our players or who comes off the bench, what class they are or anything like that. You just step up and play. Nobody is going to give you any sympathy because you have four new starters out there. That's the way it goes. You have to go play. When we understand that, I think we'll be a better team."
It was an extremely rough game, as officials let the teams play physical defense. Once again, Maryland weathered a poor start, falling behind 18-4 before scoring 15 consecutive points and taking a 27-25 halftime lead.
But the Terrapins (11-3) faltered in the second half and their five-game winning streak came to an end. Williams said his team was less aggressive on defense and he was particularly irked at its inability to rebound shots missed by North Carolina State. The Wolfpack (10-1) had 22 offensive rebounds, 13 in the second half, many in key situations. The Terrapins also had 25 turnovers, seven by Morris.
"Everybody has to stop blaming the youth of the team; it's not that," Maryland guard Juan Dixon said. "We know what we have to do to win. You have to rebound and play defense."
Still, Maryland had a chance to win, largely because of Gainey. With the Terrapins trailing 66-64, Gainey missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1 minute 11 seconds left. He then missed two more free throws with 41 seconds left.
Maryland called a timeout and Morris air-balled a short jump hook, but Dixon grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
On the inbounds play (North Carolina State had just six team fouls and was not in the penalty), Blake fed Danny Miller for a short bank shot to tie the game at 66 with 18.8 seconds left.
North Carolina State had two timeouts left but chose not to use one. As the clock wound down, Gainey dribbled across the top of the key from left to right and used a screen by Damon Thornton to separate himself from Blake. Gainey then floated a soft shot over oncoming Maryland center Lonny Baxter. Gainey scored all of his 14 points in the second half.
"We had a chance at the end to take it to overtime if we played good defense, but we made a mistake there on that last play," Williams said. ". . . We were trying to keep him [Gainey] from penetrating, but he was able to do it. That's a senior making a great play."
It was Gainey's third career game-winning shot and second this season. He made a three-pointer with 14 seconds left to lift the Wolfpack to a 61-59 victory over then-No. 21 Purdue in N.C. State's only previous game against a ranked opponent.
"I was just telling myself to get it to the open person," Gainey said, "or if it is me, to be ready."
Terrapins Notes: Reserves Calvin McCall, Drew Nicholas, Mike Mardesich and Tahj Holden combined for four rebounds and two points--all by Mardesich--in 39 minutes. . . . Though Dixon was 7 of 11 for 14 points, he missed his only three-point attempt and has not made a three-pointer in six games (15 attempts).